That is because I own a mirror. My doctor tells me that the mirror is the devil’s handiwork after age 50. Personally, I am more alarmed by my lack of strength and stamina on certain days than what I look like from behind.
However, as a yoga teacher, I am becoming concerned that now that I’m nearing the delicate age of none-of-your-business, I may not have a successful career for much longer. What can older yogis do when they realize everyone on their mat is now in their twenties?
First of all, I suggest we throw out our mirrors and pray we don’t break a hip or something in handstand!
Okay, seriously, this is a real issue and sooner or later it will happen to all of us. It has affected me, and I’m a sprightly 52. Even though I had been asked to teach many times at the local Lululemon Athletica store, I was never made an ambassador. It turned out that I was too old in the store manager’s opinion.
What’s more, my book, “Finding More on the Mat,” was originally titled “Aging Gracefully on the Mat,” but an editor in New York asked me who was I kidding? She said that aging, gracefully or not, kind of sucked (but as Mark Twain noted, it’s better than the alternative).
While the concept of “aging gracefully” may sell magazines and moisturizers, in the yoga room it’s hard to preach how great it is when everything creaks and new knees and hips are not working like the old ones. Among my older students I do not even let them consider arthritis as a unique problem because almost everyone has it. Arthritis is a fact of life.
On an optimistic note, my teaching has never been better, and my yogi heart has never been stronger. In the words of Christina Sell, “Yoga is marketed to the young, but the real beauty of the practice belongs to the older yogi.”
That’s because the older yogi is so utterly grateful every morning we are still here and can touch our toes! Who cares about one-armed handstand? I am thrilled to be able to take Downward Facing Dog for one more day on this earth.
The only thing I miss from my twenties is my stamina and my younger butt (but I do feel a sense of entitlement to an afternoon nap). Everything else – intellect, resilience, desire and loving heart – is better, wiser and stronger.
At least for now I believe there is a market for what we have to offer. And surprisingly my rooms are filled with younger people who are hoping to get a hit of what we have: wisdom and experience. I also teach a Wisdom Warriors ™ class created by Desiree Rumbaugh for older yogis, which has been extremely popular. In fact, I’ve had to card students who don’t meet the age requirements! So I know the older yogi is out there and looking for community.
Believe in yourself. Believe in what you have to offer and believe in the hard-earned lessons you’ve learned, and your rooms will be full of eager yogis who want to follow in your barefoot path. And if it doesn’t work, please let me know because I am right there with you, in age and spirit.
By Michelle Marchildon
Michelle Berman Marchildon is a yogi, mother and writer trying to maintain a sense of humor in a hectic world. She’s a longtime, professional, award-winning journalist, author of The Yogi Muse Blog and the memoir, Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her book for yoga teachers, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, has become one of the fastest growing and widely accepted texts for yoga teachers throughout the world.
She’s a Featured Columnist for Elephant Journal and Origin Magazine, a Contributing Editor for Mantra Yoga and Health Magazine, and a contributor under contract to Sports Illustrated. She has also written for Yoga Journal, Teachasana, My Yoga Online and 90 Monkeys. Her wit and dry humor has earned her the title, ‘The Erma Bombeck of the Mat.’ She teaches yoga and raises her family in Denver, Colorado. Her classes are available on www.yogadownload.com and www.yogasteya.com.
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